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Release: Immediate

UI President presents award to Wilton teacher May 4

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa President Mary Sue Coleman will present Barbara J. Guss, an English teacher at Wilton High School, with an Iowa Distinguished Teacher Award during a ceremony Monday, May 4 at the school.

Guss who has been teaching at Wilton High School since 1978 was cited for her extraordinary commitment to her students, their families and the profession.

One of four teachers selected for the 1997 Iowa Distinguished Teacher Awards, Guss will receive a $1,000 grant for equipment and teaching materials for the school during a student assembly at 1 p.m. May 4.

"As a graduate of Iowa public schools, and through my travels throughout the state, I know there are many, many examples of excellent teachers in Iowa classrooms," Coleman said in announcing the awards. "And I know the difference that their commitment makes in the lives of young people.

"The Distinguished Teacher Awards are our way of recognizing some of the very deserving people who don't often hear the words, 'Thank you,'" she said.

Coleman redesigned the awards ceremony in 1996 so that she could personally visit the school of each recipient and present the awards. She also created the $1,000 grant as a way of letting each school share in the honor.

At the student assembly, Coleman will present the award to Guss. Also on hand will be Steven R. Yussen, dean of the UI College of Education. Representing the school will be Tom Corrick, principal of Wilton Junior and Senior High Schools; Steven Colby, superintendent of the Wilton Community School District; and 320 students in grades nine through 12.

Carol Wade, mayor of Wilton, and Sara Kephart Anderson, a former student of Guss', will also address the assembly.

Corrick said Guss has been an exemplary teacher throughout her two decades at the school, keeping her students excited about learning.

"She gets stronger every day," Corrick says. "She's an individual who has the right attitude to reach today's youngsters. She still motivates students to learn and gets them involved."

Guss began teaching in 1970 in the Davenport school system. In 1978, she began teaching language arts at Wilton High School, where she also organizes the Honors Assembly, chairs the Language Arts program, supervises student teachers, mentors new teachers, and leads educational trips to Great Britain.

Guss earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Northern Iowa and has taken additional coursework from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, the University of Iowa and UNI.

The UI has presented the Distinguished Teacher Awards since President James O. Freedman initiated the program in 1984.

Freedman established the awards to honor teachers who have profoundly influenced the lives of their students, particularly in the skills of critical reasoning and clarity of expression. The awards emphasize the UI's commitment to education and its recognition of the interdependence between K-12, community college, and university education.

The Distinguished Teacher Awards are co-administered by the UI Office of the Provost and the UI College of Education. Each elementary, junior high school and high school in the state is invited to submit one nominee for the award each year.

Winners are chosen by a committee chaired by Yussen. Other members are UI faculty and licensed teachers and administrators.


EDITORS: As part of the selection process for the Distinguished Teacher Awards, recipients are nominated by supervisors, colleagues, parents and students. Here's a sample of what Barbara J. Guss' nominators wrote about her.

Supervisor: "[Guss] has superior ability to inspire her students to learn and achieve. She is forceful, innovative, energetic and articulate in guiding her students through a learning program. She spends endless time in facilitating a curriculum and classroom atmosphere that promotes student learning."

Colleague: "[Guss] brings a wonderful personality to the classroom. The students immediately sense her commitment to education and her love of the subject. She is able to blend humor with instruction. Her students say she tries to make literature relevant and interesting. . . . [She] is a wonderful co-worker. She pursues new and varied teaching strategies to improve learning with the goal of implementing them into her classroom. Barb believes the strength of the curriculum directs the classroom. [She] is always willing to share the successful ideas and strategies she has discovered with other teachers."

Former student: "[Guss] helped instill a love of learning and travel that I am trying to pass on to my students. I currently teach a K-12 gifted program and high school drama in a small rural school much like the one I attended in Wilton, Iowa. Each year for the past two years I have undertaken a task much like [Guss]. Students have traveled with me to Italy, England, Ireland, and Wales, and next year, will be venturing to Germany and Switzerland. I want to show students how much more there is to the world and to life itself, and hopefully along the way students will learn something about history and maybe themselves. [Guss] showed me that, and I am forever grateful."

Parent: "[Guss] has the unique quality of making learning a fun experience for her students, while keeping a sense of order and discipline. She relates to every type of student. In our family, we have watched her take a student who is hesitant about the intensity of a class and convince them to try; she will encourage a student who already has a zeal for English Literature and challenge them to reach new heights in expanding their knowledge and abilities; and she will help a student who has struggled with this subject matter in the past find it interesting and fun."